For over 30 years, the Ma­ni­to­ba Me­tis Fe­de­ra­tion has been ac­ti­ve­ly pres­sing for com­pen­sa­tion by the Crown for lands that the Mé­tis people were en­tit­led to but ne­ver re­cei­ved. But since Jus­tin Tru­deau’s go­vern­ment came to po­wer, ne­go­tia­tions have been pro­gres­sing well and the Mé­tis are loo­king for­ward to a brigh­ter fu­ture.

“The Mé­tis claims are roo­ted in the Ca­na­dian Consti­tu­tion,” said MMF Chief of Staff Al Be­noit. “Ac­cor­ding to the Ma­ni­to­ba Act, part of the Ca­na­dian Consti­tu­tion, the Mé­tis, as the Foun­ders of Ma­ni­to­ba, were to re­ceive 1.4 mil­lion acres in land grants to give our chil­dren a be er start in life, in ex­change for pu ing down our arms. Even­tual­ly, the pro­cess be­came so cor­rupt that vir­tual­ly no land was ever trans­fer­red to the Mé­tis.”

In the 1970s, the MMF be­gan loo­king in­to what was one of the darkest chap­ters of Ca­na­dian his­to­ry to be er un­ders­tand what had real­ly hap­pe­ned. In the ear­ly 1980s, the MMF went to court to set the re­cord straight about Mé­tis his­to­ry and seek res­ti­tu­tion for the wrongs that had been done to them.

“MMF President Da­vid Chartrand had pro­mi­sed the Mé­tis that we would go all the way to the Su­preme Court, which is what he did in 2013,” said Be­noit. “The Su­preme Court of Ca­na­da then re­lea­sed its de­ci­sion de­cla­ring that Ca­na­da had not kept its pro­mise to the Ma­ni­to­ba Mé­tis.”

Time for Ne­go­tia­tions

Des­pite the Su­preme Court de­ci­sion, the Con­ser­va­tive go­vern­ment un­der Ste­phen Har­per sho­wed no in­ter­est in ne­go­tia­ting with the MMF. In contrast, Jus­tin Tru­deau pro­mi­sed be­fore and du­ring his elec­tion cam­pai­gn to ne­go­tiate with the MMF if he was elec­ted. He kept his word. “In nine months, a re­cord time, we were able to get a Me­mo­ran­dum of

Un­ders­tan­ding to ne­go­tiate a fra­me­work agree­ment,” said MMF President Da­vid Chartrand.

This fra­me­work agree­ment, which sets out the rules and to­pics for ne­go­tia­tion, was si­gned in No­vem­ber 2016. As dis­clo­sed by Al Be­noit: “We are now in the mid­st of se­rious ne­go­tia­tions with the fe­de­ral go­vern­ment and an­ti­ci­pate an­noun­cing some ve­ry po­si­tive first re­sults.” These re­sults will in­clude most im­por­tant­ly op­por­tu­ni­ties such as fun­ding for pro­grams and ser­vices to im­prove the qua­li­ty of life of the Mé­tis people.

Da­niels vs. Ca­na­da

Con­cur­rent­ly, the Su­preme Court of Ca­na­da’s 2016 ru­ling in Da­niels vs. Ca­na­da streng­the­ned the MMF’s ne­go­tia­tions with the fe­de­ral go­vern­ment.

The Su­preme Court made it clear that the fe­de­ral go­vern­ment’s res­pon­si­bi­li­ties are iden­ti­cal to­wards both Mé­tis and First Na­tions people. This de­ci­sion will al­so re­sult in go­vern­ment sup­port for so­cial pro­grams and ser­vices de­si­gned to give back to the Mé­tis of cur­rent and fu­ture ge­ne­ra­tions.

“We have al­rea­dy un­der­ta­ken ini­tia­tives in hou­sing, edu­ca­tion, trai­ning, eco­no­mic de­ve­lop­ment and ear­ly child­hood,” said Da­vid Chartrand. “For example, we re­cei­ved $500 mil­lion for hou­sing.” Prior to this de­ci­sion, the Pro­vince and the fe­de­ral go­vern­ment were pas­sing the buck in terms of who should be pro­vi­ding ser­vices to the Mé­tis, with the re­sult that they we­ren’t re­cei­ving their right­ful share of ser­vices “even though we pay $2.6 bil­lion in taxes per year across Ca­na­da,” no­ted the president.

“This is a great prac­ti­cal vic­to­ry for us,” said Al Be­noit. “With the sup­port of the Su­preme Court in the Da­niels case and in our land claims, and thanks to the fe­de­ral go­vern­ment’s willin­gness to move for­ward in co­ope­ra­tion with us, we have fi­nal­ly laid two so­lid stepping stones to build a be er fu­ture for ge­ne­ra­tions of Mé­tis to come.”

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